The phrase ‘improv’ usually evokes feelings of apprehension; Not only are the actors winging it, but us in the audience has no idea what to expect. Thankfully MacKenzie’s Daughters playing at The Basement Theatre on Saturday nights is in the stable hands of some of New Zealand’s funniest comics Alice Snedden, Laura Daniel, Kura Forrester, Hayley Sproull, Rhiannon McCall, Brynley Stent and Donna Brookbanks. All are also part of cult hit improv show Snort, but this is their first time playing in a solely female show. Think a soap opera parody of McLeod’s Daughters, set in Mackenzie Country.
The death of Mr Mackenzie has left the Mackenzie Country community in mourning leaving his daughters in charge . This is the Skelton storyline the comedians have to work with. The audience are asked to provide three prompts to help the cast on their improv journey – an object, an issue on the farm and a secret -and these will vary with each performance. The cast are also given a card each, with one signalling to the actor that they must to die at some point in the play, however, the actor that receives this card is the only one that knows this.
Though most of the show is improvised, the setting for our actors is a farm where they’ve just lost their father, Mr Mackenzie, leaving the Mackenzie Country community in mourning and his daughter’s in charge. The audience is asked to provide an object (gloves), an issue on the farm (hunger) and a secret (killed somebody). The cast is also given a card each, with one signaling the receiving actor that they must die at some point in the play, however, the actor that receives this card is the only one that knows this.
Unfortunately, it’s still a rarity to see a comedy show entirely featuring women but these performers are slowly shaking off the stigma and biases that women aren’t as funny as their male counterparts. Based on the laughs we had on Saturday night I could make a strong case that they’re funnier. A particularly contrasting note to male improv shows was that none of the cast overpowered the other. Characters and stage time was shared evenly which amplified the comradery between these comic professionals as they bounced off each other, creating more opportunity for natural humour as opposed to strained interactions.
Reviewed by Nick MacDonald.